Southern Patagonian Ice Field

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Southern Patagonian Ice Field
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Map showing the location of Southern Patagonian Ice Field
Map showing the location of Southern Patagonian Ice Field
Location within Southern Patagonia
TypeIce field
LocationArgentina and Chile
Coordinates49°55′S 73°32′W / 49.917°S 73.533°W / -49.917; -73.533Coordinates: 49°55′S 73°32′W / 49.917°S 73.533°W / -49.917; -73.533
Area16,800 km2 (6,500 sq mi)

The Southern Patagonian Ice Field (Spanish: Hielo Continental or Campo de Hielo Sur), located at the Southern Patagonic Andes between Chile and Argentina, is the world's second largest contiguous extrapolar ice field.[1] It is the bigger of two remnant parts of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, which covered all of southern Chile during the last glacial period, locally called the Llanquihue glaciation.


The Southern Patagonia Ice Field extends from parallels 48° 15′ S to 51° 30′ S for approximately 350 kilometres (220 mi), and has an approximate area of 16,480 km2 (6,360 sq mi), of which 14,200 km2 belong to Chile and 2,600 km2 belong to Argentina.[a]

The ice mass feeds dozens of glaciers in the area, among which are the Upsala (765 km2), Viedma (978 km2) and Perito Moreno (258 km2) in the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, and the Pío XI Glacier or Bruggen Glacier (1,265 km2, the largest in area and longest in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica), O'Higgins (820 km2), Grey (270 km2) and Tyndall (331 km2) in Chile. The glaciers going to the west flow into the fjords of the Patagonian channels of the Pacific Ocean; those going to the East flow into the Patagonian lakes Viedma and Argentino, and eventually, through the rivers de la Leona and Santa Cruz, to the Atlantic Ocean.

An important part of the ice field is protected under different national parks, such as the Bernardo O'Higgins and Torres del Paine in Chile, and the aforementioned Los Glaciares in Argentina.

There are two known volcanoes under the ice field; Lautaro and Viedma. Due to their inaccessibility they are among the least researched volcanoes in Chile and Argentina.



Thorough explorations include the expeditions of Federico Reichert (1913–1914), Alberto de Agostini (1931), and Harold William Tilman and Jorge Quinteros (1955–1956); as well as Eric Shipton (1960–61). The first (North-South) crossing of the field was accomplished in 1998 by Pablo Besser, Mauricio Rojas, José Montt and Rodrigo Fica. Nevertheless, some areas of the field remain largely unexplored

From the air, initial exploration was conducted in 1928–29 by Gunther Plüschow after whom a glacier is named. It was further studied in 1943 by aerial photographs made by the United States Air Force on request of the Chilean government.


This map shows the current border, the B Section is pending to be defined.
Toponymy of the region

Fifty kilometers of the Chile–Argentina border, between Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Murallón, remain undefined[3][4] on the ice field.

This Southern Patagonian Ice Field section of the border is the last remaining border issue between Chile and Argentina. On 1 August 1991 the governments of Chile and Argentina agreed on a borderline, but the agreement was never ratified by the Argentine legislature. Later, in 1998, both governments agreed that the line would run along the high peaks and watershed (as specified in their 1941 treaty) northward from Cerro Murallón to a point on a line of latitude due west of "Section B" that was specified in the 1998 agreement a few km southwest of Mt. Fitz roy. However, they also agreed that final demarcation and exact location of the line there would wait until completion of a detailed 1:50,000 scale map of the area and further negotiations. To date, this one section remains the final non-concluded boundary section and an occasional irritant in Argentina-Chile relations.


In 2006, the Argentine Instituto Geográfico Militar (IGM) (today Instituto Geográfico Nacional) edited a map without a note about the nondefined border but showed the Argentine claims as the official borderline. After Chilean diplomatic protests, the Argentine government withdrew the map and urged Chile to expedite the demarcation of the international border that had already been established by both countries in the 1881 treaty. However, many in Chile consider the border to have been established by the "Laudo of 1902," which was an agreement signed "to perpetuity" by both countries under British tutelage. The map published by the British Crown, as part of the documentation of the "Laudo of 1902", illustrates a clear demarcation line (from the Fitz Roy to the Stokes) to the east of the Southern Patagonian Ice Fields leaving most of the territory in question in the Chilean side (Santis, 1995:3–7). That is the cartography used by many international map publishers for many decades, but since 2007, some new international maps show the Argentine claim as the border line.[citation needed]

In January 2008, technicians of both countries began the final demarcation of the border.[5]

Panoramic view of Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine National Park (Chilean territory)
The merged outlet of Penguin Glacier and HPS 19.

In 2018, Argentina made a National Ice Inventory in which are included some disputed glaciers.[6][7][8][9] From September 20 to October 4 of the same year, the Argentine army traveled to into the area that is pending to be demarcated. This caused controversy mainly in Chile[10] where the mayor of Villa O'Higgins denounced the fact as a "provocation" and made a call to the central government of Chile to reinforce the sovereignty in the zone.[11][12]

After the Argentine government published its inventory of glaciers including undefined territory the Chilean Foreign Ministry informed that a claim note had already been sent denying the Argentine inventory.

As of 2021, the demarcation is still pending.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Southern Patagonia Ice Field from ISS, astronaut photo. North is to the right.


  1. ^ The area includes regions included in the official cartography of Argentina, which is still pending demarcation, see the section on the dispute.[2]


  1. ^ At about 16,800 square kilometers, it is second only to southeastern Alaska's approximately 25,000 square kilometer Kluane / Wrangell–St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek Ice Field. "Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek". UNESCO. Archived from the original on 2017-02-24.
  2. ^ "Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional | Ley Chile". Archived from the original on 2021-08-27. Retrieved 2021-08-28.
  3. ^ "Border agreement between Chile and Argentina". 1998. Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2006-10-27.
  4. ^ "Map showing border between Chile and Argentina (partly undefined)". Archived from the original on 2019-10-02. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  5. ^ IGM press release: Trazado de Límites en los Hielos Continentales Patagónicos Archived 2008-04-13 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Argentina publica inventario de glaciares e incluye a hielos que están en territorio chileno". 2018-10-15. Archived from the original on 2018-10-26. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  7. ^ "Subcuenca del Lago Viedma - Inventario Nacional de Glaciares" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-09-05. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  8. ^ "Subcuenca Brazo Norte del Lago Argentino - Inventario Nacional de Glaciares" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-09-05. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  9. ^ "Subcuencas Brazo Sur del Lago Argentino y río Bote - Inventario Nacional de Glaciares" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-09-05. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  10. ^ "Malestar en Chile por un ejercicio militar de la Argentina en la zona de Hielos Continentales". Archived from the original on 2018-10-26. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  11. ^ "Advierten expedición militar argentina en demarcación limítrofe pendiente en Campo de Hielo Sur". 11 October 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-10-26. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  12. ^ "Polémica por incursión de ejército argentino en territorio chileno en Aysén". 11 October 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-10-26. Retrieved 2018-10-25.

External links[edit]